SCRANTON -- The president of The greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce for the past 31 years is stepping down.
Austin Burke made the announcement Friday afternoon that he is retiring.
His face may not look too familiar, he's a behind the scenes kind of guy, but for the past 40 years Austin Burke has had his hands in almost every economic development project in the greater Scranton area.
During a news conference at The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, Burke announced he will end his tenure as the chamber's president.
In those 31 years, Burke's been responsible for literally changing the landscape of Lackawanna County. Most recently by masterminding the Valley View Industrial Park in Jessup. Just over a year ago he helped break ground for the TMG Health building.
"I grew up in Archbald, and I used to wander around there when it was nothing but old mining roads through there and strip mines," said Burke.
Burke also played a major role in bringing the now Toyota Pavilion to Montage Mountain in the late 1990s.
"The nice thing about being in it 40 years is that you can stop and take stock of that and realize that you are indeed making progress," added Burke.
While Austin Burke may not have had the most visible role in those projects, you have probably seen his other visuals hanging in many buildings in downtown Scranton. Burke moonlights as an artist, a depicter of all things NEPA. He said he'll be doing more of that in retirement.
"I think that we would be far far behind where we are today economically if it wasn't for Austin's work," said David Hawk, a fellow Chamber Boardmember.
"In spite of all the headwinds we've had with the economic turmoil, here locally and nationally and globally, he's been able to see his way through that," added Chamber Board, Chairman Dan Santaniello.
Burke said economic development will always be in his blood. He will remain president of The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce until a new one is named. Burke will still sit on a number of boards in Lackawanna County.
"If the easy answer is no, look at the possibilities for making it happen. That would be my advice to the chamber, to the community, and to the entire state," Burke said.